As tributes pour in for the American singer, actress and “trailblazer” Whitney Houston, British R&B singer Beverly Knight tells Channel 4 News how the diva set the “gold standard” in the industry.
A five-star hotel, five-star parties and a five-star lifestyle – all shaded by a long history of substance abuse.
The death of the Grammy award-winning star, who was one of the world’s best-selling artists in the 1980s and 1990s, has stunned the entertainment industry and left fans around the world in shock.
Los Angeles police said the troubled singer was found in her hotel room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton late on Saturday.
Detectives said paramedics unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the singer, who was pronounced dead at 3.55pm local time.
Houston was due to appear at the LA gala of music’s biggest occasion – the Grammy Awards – later tonight (early Monday UK time) and had also been at rehearsals for the show, coaching singers Brandy and Monica.
In pictures: Whitney Houston 1963-2012
The cause of Houston’s death is as yet unclear. There will be an autopsy but if drink or drugs are found to be involved toxicology tests could mean it will take up to two months before the cause of her sudden death becomes clear.
Houston’s former husband Bobby Brown, also a singer, was due to perform in Mississippi, as news spread about Houston’s death.
He told the crowd: “First of all, I want to tell you that I love you all. Second, I would like to say, I love you Whitney. The hardest thing for me to do is to come on this stage.”
The singer of I Will Always Love You and Saving All My Love won multiple Grammys including album and record of the year, selling millions of albums and singles worldwide.
She also carried her success into the film industry, appearing in hit movies including The Bodyguard.
However, her career began to unravel as she battled with drug addiction, spending various spells in rehab. Her powerful voice began to suffer because of her demons prompting record sales to nosedive and in 2007 she split from husband Bobby Brown after 15 years of marriage.
Last week Houston was pictured looking dishevelled and disorientated as she left a Hollywood nightclub with her daughter Bobbi Kristina after performing at a pre-Grammy party.
Amy, Etta, Whitney. Their music will NEVER die. What a great girl group in heaven. Mitch Winehouse, father of Amy
Recent reports suggested that the soul star was on the brink of bankruptcy, while others said she was being lined-up by Cowell as a judge on the American equivalent of the X Factor.
Houston had made a comeback in 2009 releasing a new album after seven years off the scene. She revealed that her life began to spiral out of control after her 1992 success in The Bodyguard.
Following the news of her death, which came on the eve of this year’s Grammys ceremony, fellow celebrities and contemporaries lined up to pay their respects.
“I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney’s passing,” legendary music producer Quincy Jones said in a written statement.
“I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly.”
Music mogul Simon Cowell wrote on Twitter: “I am so sad to hear about Whitney. We have lost one of the greatest singers of all time.”
Cowell said he expected tonight’s Grammys to become a tribute to the singer, describing her as a “trailblazer and “legend”.
He told Heart FM: “I’m sure they (the organisers) are going to move quickly and I understand and I expect this is to become, as it should be, a tribute to her because you have to remember a lot of the people who are going to be getting awards at the Grammys, they owe an awful lot of their success, I believe, to Whitney, because Whitney was a trailblazer. It’s a night she deserves to be remembered fondly.”
She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly. Quincy Jones, music producer
Houston appeared on the X Factor in Britain in 2009 following an invite from Cowell.
Mitch Winehouse, the father of late British singer Amy Winehouse who died last year, also paid tribute to Houston and the recently deceased Etta James on the social networking site, writing: “Amy, Etta, Whitney. Their music will NEVER die. What a great girl group in heaven. Mitch”.
Winehouse, who was in Los Angeles when he heard the news, also said he was “absolutely devastated”.
English record producer Peter Waterman paid tribute to the singer, describing her an an “icon”. “She dominated the 80s,” he told the BBC.
“She had one of the greatest voices of all time. There isn’t any better.
The Stock Aitken Waterman songwriter said her drug problems were “the tragedy of success.” “There is a point where an artist just becomes so powerful that you just can’t tell them what to do and if you’re vulnerable it can be a nasty world,” he added.